Inspired by Derrick Story’s 7 Step Workflow for Apple Aperture, here’s one for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.
Firstly, Lightroom was designed to be used from left to right (Library > Develop > output), and from top to bottom on the right hand panel within these modules. So in Develop for example you would go from Basic settings (Temperature/Tint, Exposure, etc) and continue down to Detail, Lens Corrections, and so on.
With that in mind here goes.
With Lightroom, like Aperture, images must be imported to the catalog to be edited. During Import you can use a preset to automatically rename images, apply copyright and other metadata, as well as a basic correction to suit your style. If you’re importing from a card you can also have Lightroom create a predefined folder structure on your hard drive to import images into and create a backup copy, preferably to another hard drive.
In Library select (rate) your best images using keyboard number keys. 1 = OK, 2 = better, 3 = best, etc.
Still in Library, keyword by selecting images and dragging them to the Keyword List on the right panel. To make life easier I recommend using a fixed number of keywords (a controlled vocabulary) and not making up keywords on import.
4. Quick Develop
Filter to show only the starred images (1 Star or better). Select images that need similar correction and use Quick Develop to adjust them. Quick Develop is a coarse tool for basic batch corrections, we’ll use Develop for the finer work.
Edit images that need more work like Local Area Correction. Develop has many keyboard shortcuts to reduce mouse usage. Click ‘Cmd + /’ (‘Ctrl + /’ on Windows) to see those shortcuts. Run down the list of panels and apply settings as required. Settings can be selectively copied using ‘Cmd + Shift +C’ (‘Ctrl + Shift + C’ on Windows) and ‘Cmd + Shift + V’ (‘Ctrl + Shift + V’ on Windows).
Now you can create a Book, Slideshow, Print or Export (‘Cmd + Shift +E’ (‘Ctrl + Shift + E’ on Windows) to JPEG, TIFF, etc. Cleverly, Export processes images in the order that creates the best quality (e.g. sharpening last).
7. Back up
You should always save and back up your work, especially after you’ve made a lot of corrections. Select all the images and press ‘Cmd + S’ (‘Ctrl + S’ on Windows) to write the settings and metadata to XMP sidecar files. Backup the Catalog to another drive; Lightroom nags you to do this when you close it.
For a more detailed workflow walkthrough download my Adobe whitepaper on Lightroom. Commissioned for earlier versions of Lightroom the workflow is much the same with the current version.